Noe Valley Voice December-January 1998-99

Neighbors Spruce Up Three Local Parks

By Suzanne Herel

Noe Valley residents have been such busy beavers at City Hall this fall, they've garnered a bundle of improvements at three Noe Valley parks. So far their successes include new benches, a portable toilet, and tree plantings at Noe Courts and Douglass Park, as well as a promise from the city for increased maintenance at Upper Noe Recreation Center (also known as Day Street Park).

"There are so many people vying for money, and if you're not organized and you're not vociferous, you're not going to get any Open Space funds," said Steve Bell, recreation director for the children's playground at Douglass, the two-level park along Douglass above 26th Street.

"They've been on the horn," he said, speaking appreciatively of the Noe Valley Neighborhood Parks Improvement Association, a newly formed group of residents who've adopted both Douglass and Noe Courts. He credits them with spurring the city into action on problems that have plagued the local parks for years.

The association convinced the city to haul away old logs and tree cuttings at Douglass in preparation for "Clean Sweep Day" on Nov. 7. Then that Saturday, about 20 people from the group gathered to clean up the grounds and sift through sand in the play area for glass and other debris. Thanks to the association, four trees have also been planted, and new flowers accent the clubhouse.

What's more, a new, three-tiered water fountain -- complete with a doggy drinking bowl -- is in the works for Douglass, as well as for Noe Courts, the smaller park off 24th Street.

Perhaps the most notable improvement at Douglass, Bell said, has been the excavation of the play area to dig up protruding rocks, some of which had posed a danger to children. Again, the association was instrumental. "I've spent four years trying to get that done," said Bell. Next on the agenda, he said, will be cleaning out the park's drains and lobbying for new playground equipment.

Meanwhile, a few blocks away at Noe Courts, the mood is also chipper

Dorthe Deubler, co-chair of the parks association (founded this summer and called "PIA" for short), reports that the city has cancelled its plans to remove a strip of older trees lining the tennis courts. Instead of being cut down, the trees will be pruned to rid them of pests, she said.

According to Deubler, whose mailing list now numbers more than 100 people, that victory and other improvements at the park have been the result of persistent phone calls. "Rec and Park has been incredibly supportive. The people there are really dedicated. They just don't have the resources or manpower," she explained.

Thanks to PIA's nagging, at Noe Courts, where the bathroom building has been closed for more than 20 years, park visitors now can take advantage of a Porta-Potty, installed while the city debates whether to renovate the old bathroom. "They think that with painting and carpentry they can maybe open the real bathroom in the spring," said Deubler.

In addition, three new benches have replaced the old splintered seats, and a trash can is now available in the toddler area so parents don't have to desert their kids to throw something away.

Another thing Deubler is excited about is a new $3,500 pedestal water fountain, which will go in at Noe Courts as soon as some plumbing details get ironed out. "We got a grant for half the money from Friends of Rec and Park, and a quarter from the Noe Courts Coalition -- the dog owners group -- and then the East & West of Castro Club voted to give us $400 in October. We hadn't even asked [East & West] for the money, so that was quite a bonus," she said.

Meanwhile, residents from another part of the neighborhood have formed the Upper Noe Recreation Center Task Force, to focus on fixing up the block-long park between Day and 30th and Church and Sanchez streets. This fall, the task force extracted a promise from the city that much-needed maintenance at the rec center, such as painting and installing lights, would be completed by the end of the year.

In August, the group had sent surveys to 1,500 residents to find out what areas of the park were most in need of improvement. About 10 percent responded, said task force member Aaron Donsky. Most pointed to bathroom and playground repair and better use of the recreation center as their top priorities.

After the city's Open Space Committee ruled that such projects were too extensive and would have to wait until next year, the group persisted and convinced the city to perform maintenance on the building and grounds.

Donsky was pleased with the result: "At least we made a dent in that we brought it to their attention."

The next meeting of the Noe Valley Neighborhood Parks Improvement Association will be Dec. 14 at 6:45 p.m. at the Douglass Playground clubhouse. After that, meetings have been tentatively scheduled for the second Monday of alternating months. For more information, contact Dorthe (pronounced "Dorothy") Deubler at 824-4680.

To join the Upper Noe Task Force, call Aaron Donsky at 641-0477, or e-mail him at